Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge

Location: Chicago, United States of America

Population: 2,695,598 (city population)

Climate: Humid continental

Duration: 2012 – ongoing

Sector: Buildings

Funding sources: Public

City networks: C40

Savings: Energy reduction of 11.7% and 70,000 metric tonnes of avoided greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions (by 2016 compared to 2012 levels).

Solutions: A program that promotes voluntary energy efficiency leadership.

Multiple benefits: Energy and financial savings.

The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge (“the Challenge”) supports, encourages and celebrates voluntary energy efficiency leadership among large commercial, institutional, and private buildings throughout the City of Chicago. In partnership with diverse public, non-profit and private stakeholders, the Challenge motivates and guides voluntary action towards decreasing energy consumption by 20% over five years.

Objective – Since its establishment in 2012, the Challenge has attempted to encourage large buildings to accomplish a common energy reduction target.

Solutions –The Challenge aims at the owners, managers, operations teams, and other stakeholders in large commercial, institutional, multi-family residential and cultural facilities.

Participating buildings commit to enhancing energy efficiency by 20% within five years of joining the programme. Participating in the program requires sharing progress and serving as ambassadors to other buildings seeking to save energy and operating costs. The Challenge facilitates participating buildings in overcoming barriers to improving energy efficiency and delivering successful energy retrofit projects. It offers direct support to managers and owners, supports best practice sharing among buildings, and in parallel, attempts to promote voluntary energy efficiency leadership across the building industry.

Funding – There is no public budget line item for the Challenge. Most costs are covered by pro-bono partner engagement and modest grant funding. Private partners— including local utilities and private companies—offer specific financial support for the annual awards.

Innovation – 1) The specific goal of reducing energy usage by 20% within five years in each participating building is central to the Challenge’s success and credibility. It provides a clear, quantitative target for guiding voluntary efforts to improve the energy performance of individual buildings; 2) Also innovative is the Challenge’s cross-sector collaborative implementation model. This unites public and private entities, including city officials, NGOs, private consultants and utilities. Operating in this way makes it possible to tap into the diverse and complementary resources of the partner network.

Success factors – 1) Clear and meaningful, quantitative, mid-term goal; 2) Progress through capacity building. Sharing of best practices, both formally and informally, is a key driver of the programme; 3) Commitment to controlled, continuous expansion. Since its initial implementation in 2012, the Challenge has adopted a snowballing strategy of recruiting new participants to expand the participant pool. As mentioned, it has quintupled in size—from an initial cohort of 14 large office buildings—to a diverse community of 62 properties, including hotels, universities, multi-family residences, a house of worship and cultural institutions.

Significant outcomes:

  • By 2017, participating buildings had achieved a total energy use reduction of 11.7% (weather normalised source energy) from baselines;
  • Annual savings of 90 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 70,000 metric tonnes of avoided GHG emissions;
  • Current financial savings from the above-reported energy consumption reduction of 11.7% are estimated at around $6.4 million per year.

Synergies with local policies:

  • Sustainable Chicago 2015 aims to make the city of Chicago more liveable, competitive, and sustainable. The plan, launched in 2012, outlines seven themes (including Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy), 24 goals, and 100 concrete actions that comprise a clear commitment to leadership, partnership, and positive impact. Among the goals, we can find the objective to improve energy efficiency in municipal buildings by 10% [source].
  • Official Announcement on City Buildings to be powered by 100 Percent Renewable Energy by 2025. When implemented, Chicago will be the largest major city in the country to have a 100 per cent renewable energy supply for its public buildings.
  • The Chicago Climate Change Action Plan. Chicago´s goal is to reach an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Executive Order No. 2017-1 committed the entire city to greenhouse gas emission reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement. The commitment would achieve 26% to 28% greenhouse gas emission reductions below a 2005 baseline [source].

Political alignment:

Marketability: Initial experiences and data from Challenge participants informed the design of Chicago’s Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance, adopted in 2013.

Early experiences in progress tracking for the Challenge illuminated common building challenges encountered by building owners and managers when collecting and reporting data.

Furthermore, partnerships formed with utilities, public interest groups, energy service providers, real estate portfolios, and other stakeholders in the Challenge also proved invaluable to ordinance development, outreach, and recommended actions to increase energy performance.

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Sector: Buildings

Country / Region: United States

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In 1 user collection: Good practices of cities

Knowledge Object: User generated Initiative

Published by: Urban Efficiency II

Publishing year: 2022